CZECHOSLOVAK AIR POST 1918 – 1939
by MU Dr. Petr Horka
Published as Trojan Catalog This 224 page, soft bound handbook published in 1997 matches in size and appearance the numerous catalogues published by Trojan. As in the case of other Trojan catalogues, it is in Czech. It appeared at a time that this reviewer was forming a Czechoslovak Air Post exhibit which gave him ample opportunity to note both the positive and negative aspects of this work.
The handbook is described in the introductory chapter as a catalogue. It is a catalogue in the sense that individual covers are point valued, where one point equals 1 Kc in 1997. But in content it far exceeds a catalogue, and should be considered a handbook. Its chapters include a good historical introduction, beginning with the hot air balloon of the Czech scientist Tedeas Hanka, which carried the first written message delivered “by air” in March of 1784. He covers development through the French Balloon Mail of the Franco-Prussian War, early balloon mail, early aviators, and Austro-Hungarian military mail. These are systematically listed in table form. He then covers early Czechoslovak military mail up to 1920 which pioneered the earliest Czechoslovak air routes. MUDr. Horka’s presentation of history without deviating excessively from philately is believed to be the strongest part of his work.
The presentation of the earliest commercial Air Post period includes much data previously unpublished. Much has been written (and argued) about the earliest flights, but Horka’s presentation is again clear and systematic. In his tables showing dates of flights with corresponding weight of mail, he includes flights to and from Warsaw, all of which occurred after the end of the first rate period — which could cause some confusion except that the author points this out in the last paragraph of the previous chapter. The 1922-1930 period is presented in great detail, showing schedules of both domestic and international flights. I have found no first flights in that period that were not listed and detailed in the handbook and would therefore venture to say that the listing is virtually complete. Interesting covers with foreign destinations are illustrated and described. The only lack of detail and clarity was observed in the listing of covers connecting to German Lufthansa flights in 1927 (p 102) where Czechoslovak routes and dates are not given. The period from 1931-1939 is again presented comprehensively, with good historic narrative, good illustrations of aircraft and clear international schedules. Main emphasis is again on the listing of First Flights and commemorative cancels. As in previous chapters, the airlines are listed. Separate chapters are devoted to commemorative flights, balloon flights, and catapult flights. The dates of all Zeppelin flights are listed, including those when foreign franking for Zeppelin flights was required (the period before the 1932 Czechoslovak treaty).
A separate chapter on crash covers and emergency landings beginning with May of 1918 gives dates, routes, airlines, pertinent notes and valuation in most cases. The last major chapter is devoted to postage rates. Shown are tables giving basic international surface rates upon which Air Post surcharges were levied. The tables of foreign surcharges are given by continent. In each, the country and time interval are given, and surcharges for letters, postcards and printed matter are listed. Pertinent notes are added as applicable.
The author admits that the handbook is not complete and is eager to accept new information from readers. That statement is true of almost any handbook and should not detract from the usefulness of the work. I highly recommend it to those of our readers who can read Czech, though the catalogue listings may also be useful to English speaking collectors. The handbook may be purchased from the Society for $15.00, postpaid, by contacting Edwin Lehecka whose address appears on page 2 in this issue.